• Going Deeper: Growing in Faith and Knowledge

Bible Study Discussion Guide Winter 2019 Trinity Church in the City of Boston Year C / Revised Common Lectionary, Lent 1: Sunday, March 10

March 3, 2019
  • Deuteronomy 26:1-11
  • Romans 10:8b-13
  • Luke 4:1-13
  • Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16

 

“Whatever your heart clings to and confides in,” instructed the great Protestant reformer Martin Luther (1483-1546), “that is really your God.” His words are timely as we begin Lent.  A “penitential” season, Lent comes back each year also as a season of self-examination and clarification. “What is separating me from the love of God?” “What prevents me from living fully into the image of God?” Fear? Anxiety? Hunger? Pride? There are as many answers to these reflection questions as there are people in church during these 40 days. “The word is near you,” says Paul in his letter to the Romans this week, “on your lips and in your heart.” Hearing that word, however, often asks us to “turn down the volume” of the other voices calling to us and distracting us.

 

Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness is the traditional gospel lesson appointed for the First Sunday in Lent. Whereas Mark’s gospel mentions only that Jesus was tempted, Luke (like Matthew) relays a three-fold temptation by Satan: food (making bread into stones), power (dominion over all the earth in exchange for turning from God to Satan) and security (trusting God’s angels to break his fall from the temple spire). Luke’s Satan certainly knows his scripture, using a potion of this week’s psalm 91 (verses 11, 12) to encourage Jesus to put the love of God to the test. Other elements of the story link Jesus to the history of the people of Israel: both Moses (Exodus 32) and Elijah (1 Kings 19), for example, spend 40 days in the wilderness without food. While some bible scholars point out that fasting does not necessarily mean a complete rejection of food and that “40” is a number used rather freely in Hebrew scripture to signify “a long, long time,” the greater point perhaps is that Jesus, unlike Adam and Eve in the Garden or the Israelites in the Sinai desert, refuses to “cling to or confide in” any power but God’s.

 

The Deuteronomy lesson amplifies the point:  the “first fruits” are not to be gobbled up unthinkingly but instead freely and joyfully offered to God as thanksgiving to the creative and provisioning love at the heart of the universe (“power and signs and wonders”). Failing to order one’s life in this way is failing, actually, to be fully alive and instead resembling the “living dead” which Paul recounts in Philippians 3:19:  “Their end is destruction; their god is the belly; and their glory is in their shame; their minds are set on earthly things.”

 

  • Which “earthly things” and attachments prevent you from living more fully, more freely, less anxiously?
  • Considered in a slightly different way: if the Devil were to tempt you in the wilderness, what would he choose to show you? Which objects and vistas would be part of your “wilderness narrative”?
  • Consider this portion of the Romans reading: “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him.” Does this understanding of God connect or not for you to the temptation story? What temptations or other human impulses might be confounded or complicated by such an impartial God?

 

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